“I don’t believe in building nothing I’d be ashamed to own,” Kyle Creed said in a 1970s interview. “I like them to stay with me.” Creed was a carpenter by trade, and an excellent old-time banjo player and fiddler. He combined his passions for woodworking and music and built some of the most highly prized banjos in the northwest North Carolina-southwest Virginia region. As he had planned, the banjos lasted. In 2009, banjo player and maker Kevin Fore organized a gathering to which dozens of banjo players brought their Creed banjos.
Kyle Creed grew up in the Beulah community, in a family full of musicians, including his brother, father, uncle, and grandfather. His father played a lot of fiddle, and John Lowe and Baughey Cockerham influenced his banjo playing. In the process of becoming a musician himself, he made his own first banjo and fiddle.
Creed had a very distinctive clawhammer banjo style, playing over the neck with his right hand and taking a minimalist approach to melody. He was particularly influential on a generation of young musicians who became interested in old-time music in the 1960s and ’70s. He encouraged the preservation of regional music traditions, welcoming musicians to his home, attending the regional festivals and conventions, and recording his music.
He played in countless bands with musicians all over the region, most famously the Camp Creek Boys with Fred Cockerham, Earnest East, Paul Sutphin, Ronald Collins, and Verlen Clifton. The group performed at festivals and fiddlers conventions in the 1960s and early 1970s. Their 1967 County album Camp Creek Boys has become a classic, and includes some of the hottest old-time string band music from the era. In the 1970s, Creed moved to Carroll County, Virginia, and formed Mountain Records with banjo player Bobby Patterson, producing recordings and promoting Kyle’s banjos. Musicians who have been influenced by his playing include Verlen Clifton, Mac Snow, Chester McMillian, Nick McMillian, Emily Spencer, Brian Yerman, Randy Sheets, and the Corklickers.